The planetary science community is in an uproar over the Obama administration’s proposed restructuring and possible budget cuts to NASA’s planetary research program.


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The planetary science community is in an uproar over the Obama administration’s proposed restructuring and possible budget cuts to NASA’s planetary research program.

Though the Obama administration has been consistently hostile to the planetary program, attempting to cut it severely several years in a row, and though I generally have found these particular cuts to be short-sighted, in this case the article is not very clear about the cuts NASA is proposing. It appears they are going to eliminate for one year the general research fund. I suspect there is waste in this budget, but I also suspect that this is a meat cleaver approach that has not been thought out well, as suggested in the article.

One quote from the article reinforces the foolishness of these management decisions:

Next year, a high-level NASA review is likely to have to decide between shutting down either the Mars Curiosity rover or the Cassini mission to Saturn. Both are successful missions that cost around $60 million a year, a level that Green has said the division simply cannot afford for the long term.

Talk about penny wise, pound foolish. The cost to get these probes to their destination was in the billion dollar range, each. To shut them down when they are working and cost relatively so little now is beyond stupid.

As I have written repeatedly, we have a big federal deficit. We need to cut, and I think NASA’s budget can be cut. It just makes no sense to cut planetary research, when there are other portions of that budget that are accomplishing little and cost far more.

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4 comments

  • If you voted for it, it shall come.

  • Lois Johnson

    Last night I taught my last class for the semester and the topic was Planetary Geology. I finished with the Cassini and Messenger Missions and the Mars Rovers (including Curiosity). After learning geology for 14 weeks, they really got it when it came to some of the findings of these missions. They asked so many questions. They were excited and there was a feeling of pride in these US missions. The educational value is certainly there. This is so sad. I smell politics. I am certainly going to write NASA and my representatives.

  • If you write, make sure you include references to my essay, NASA, the federal budget, and common sense. I suggest this not-so-much to plug my writing but because it is one of the only essays I’ve seen anywhere that proposes reasonable cuts to NASA while preserving its most successful programs.

  • Pzatchok

    Shutting down presently operating missions is just not smart.

    Though I do agree the individual budgets for those running programs needs to be audited and cut back.

    Come on 60 million dollars a year to just monitor a remote robot, download its data, update its software and drive them around.
    The team needed for this can’t(or shouldn’t be) be larger than 20 people total. Its not like they have to build a new transceiver and data farm for the program each year.

    What is done with the data should be left to other programs or groups who are better equipped to handle it.

    These programs seem to be a bit top heavy.

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